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Mice used to study ALS. Photo: Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Neuroscientists studying birds, mice, and fish are landing seven-figure salaries in Silicon Valley to help advance artificial intelligence for self-driving cars and more, reports Bloomberg.

The big picture: Tech companies are raiding universities for specialized animal researchers to help them understand how mice and other animals learn in hopes of teaching computers or autonomous vehicles to do the same.

  • "With whole new industries at stake, the race to unlock the secrets of the animal mind is getting weird," Bloomberg writes.

What's happening: Married Harvard neuroscientists Mackenzie and Alex Mathis record the decision-making activity of mice playing tiny video games, for instance. And Drew Robson and his partner, Jennifer Li, study zebra fish, a type of minnow whose bodies are transparent when they’re young, which allows researchers to observe their neurons at work.

  • The pair uses a special mobile microscope they developed to record which neurons are active while the fish swim, adapting to changing conditions.
  • It's similar to the way their Tesla's driving skills evolve with each Autopilot software update, Robson tells Bloomberg.

The bottom line: AVs need better artificial intelligence to advance beyond basic object recognition to human-like decision-making. They might learn a thing or two from mice and fish.

Go deeper: GM cars get new brains, nervous system for self-driving EV era

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”